Elda Neyis Mosquera García

05.05.2016 ( Last modified: 02.06.2016 )
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facts

Elda Neyis Mosquera García, alias Karina, was the former commander of the José María Córdoba bloc of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Mosquera joined the FARC in 1980, at 12 years old. She held many positions throughout her time in the FARC. She was first based in the 5th Front of the FARC and in 1998 she became one of the commanders of the 47th Front. She has been accused of commissioning various crimes during her time in the FARC, for example: her assumed participation as commander of 38 enforced disappearances; four enforced displacements, which involved around 1’335 victims; 40 kidnappings; 8 counts of sexual violence; the illegal recruitment of 111 minors; and 12 related cases which resulted in 180 victims.

To date, Mosquera has confessed to participating in 2’180 crimes, which include: murders, kidnappings, illegal recruitment of minors and guerrilla takeovers. She confirmed that FARC policies included abortion and forced sterilisation and that these crimes were committed against both adults and minors. Mosquera began to play an important role in the guerrilla in 1997 while part of the 5th Front of the FARC. At this time, the military group displaced hundreds of people living in rural areas in response to Operation Genesis, an operation in which paramilitaries and members of the 17th armed brigade, under the command of General Rito Alejo Del Río, entered the area via the bank of the river Cacarica and killed the peasant-farmer Marino López Mena.

Mosquera, together with another guerrilla leader, Nelson Antonio Patiño Cuartas, participated in the displacement and subsequent murder of the farmer Ernesto de Jesús Tabares Márquez.

For three years while Mosquera was leader of the 47th Front of the FARC, the group managed to control a large area in the departments of Antioquia and Caldas. Throughout this time they carried out enforced disappearances, kidnappings and the recruitment of minors, and raided towns.

As a way of increasing the FARC’s income, when Mosquera took control of the 47th Front she imposed a ‘tax collection’ system on those who had a capital exceeding one million dollars. She began to collect the tax from the people but many coffee workers, livestock breeders, farmers and business owners in the area refused to pay; she ordered that those who refused be kidnapped to make them pay. She ordered many ransom kidnappings, of which almost all of the victims were business owners and livestock breeders.

To control these areas Mosquera carried out censuses or registrations of residency in order to find out who lived in the area and therefore have a better idea of who was moving in and out. Using this method meant that any minors who were caught in the region and were unable to justify their presence there, were considered by the FARC to be undercover agents or spies in the armed forces or paramilitary and were consequently made to disappear.

Mosqeura also lead an attack carried out by the FARC in 2002, in which 13 soldiers and four Colombian police officers from the Caldas department died.

On 18 May 2008, after the death of Iván Ríos, another guerrilla commander operating under Mosquera’s leadership, Mosquera handed herself in to the Administrative Department of Security. She then participated in the Colombian government’s peace and justice movement, a movement that promotes the demobilistation of the FARC and there confessed to multiple crimes.

legal procedure

On 18 May 2008, after the death of Iván Ríos, another guerrilla commander operating under Mosquera’s leadership, Mosquera handed herself in to the Administrative Department of Security. She then participated in the Colombian government’s peace and justice movement, a movement that promotes the demobilistation of the FARC and there confessed to multiple crimes.

Mosquera has been convicted of various crimes, including: aggravated homicide, terrorism, rebellion, aggravated theft and damage to third party property.

In 2009, the Specialised Circuit Penal Court of Sonsón sentenced her to 20 years in prison, as she had been found guilty of aggravated enforced disappearance and illegal recruitment. The case found that between 2000 and 2002, members of Mosquera’s 47th Front, recruited four minors, two boys and two girls, from the municipality of Argelia. Two of these minors were murdered.

That same year Mosquera was sentenced to 17 years and 2 months in prison, as well as a fine of 1041 times the monthly minimum wage. This was for her responsibility in the enforced disappearance and murder of Óscar Mario Cifuentes Giraldo in the village of Florencia de Samaná in Caldas in March 2011.

Mosquera also accepted a plea bargain for having raided the village of Arboleda in Caldas in 2000, a raid which left a total of 14 police officers dead and almost destroyed the village. As a result, she was given 22 years in prison. She also received a sentence of 40 years in prison for the massacre of Montebonito.

Finally in 2013 another hearing began, which brought other charges against Mosquera for crimes committed during the 47th Front’s time occupying the areas of Sonsón, Nariño and Argelia. Crimes such as: homicide; enforced displacement and illegal recruitment.

In December of the same year the trial of those considered ‘most responsible’ for the FARC began. The accusations against these FARC members together included: 4’500 victims of enforced disappearance and displacement; kidnappings; hostage taking; illegal recruitment; gender crimes, amongst others. Mosquera, alias ‘Karina’, will also have to take responsibility for 152 crimes that affected more than 2’500 victims of the 47th Front of the José María Córdova bloc of the FARC.

The magistrate upheld the public prosecutor’s argument that the crimes of enforced disappearance and displacement, illegal recruitment of minors and other crimes of this type must be considered as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

These crimes included the armed raiding of towns such as: La Arboleda, Pensilvania in Caldas; El Prodigio, San Luis in Antioquia; Juradó in Chocó; Montebonito, Marulanda in Caldas and La Danta, Sonsón in Antioquia, carried out by the northeastern bloc of the FARC. More specifically, Mosquera has assumed responsibility for: her role as leader of the José María Córdoba bloc; 38 counts of enforced disappearance; four counts of enforced displacement, which involved 1335 victims; 40 counts of kidnapping; 8 counts of sexual violence; 111 illegally recruited minors and 12 related cases which have left 180 victims.

This trial is on-going and is being conducted by the Medellín Court which again holds Mosquera as the accused. In 2009, despite her previous convictions, Mosquera became an advocate of a peace promoting programme. This programme aims to encourage members of organized crime groups to abandon armed conflict. In exchange for her collaboration, the government has given “Karina” several benefits. Amongst these benefits was the opportunity to be recruited into the Colombian Army’s Seventh Division in Carepa rather than serve her time in an ordinary prison.

context

From 1948 to 1953, Colombia experienced a civil war of rare intensity. Known as “La Violencia”, the conflict opposed the Catholic conservative party with the liberal party, radicalised following the assassination of their leader, Jorge Eliécer Gaitan. This conflict is at the origin of the creation of liberals and communist guerrilla movements and of the emergence of self-defense militias of farmers, created in response to abuses committed by the military and the conservative armed groups. They thus gave rise among others, to the creation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which emerged as a military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, and the National Liberation Army (ELN) a Castroist group. In the beginning these groups received strong support from the rural population especially during the period of the National Front (1958-1978) the Conservatives and Liberals agreed to alternately hold power, leaving no possible alternative political representation. This negation of democracy by a ruling elite created great frustration resulting in violent confrontations between the guerrilla movements and the government.

In the 1980s, the conflict took another dimension with the rise of drug trafficking and the emergence of the first paramilitary groups funded by drug traffickers’ production of cocaine to protect themselves from the guerrillas attacks. In 1984, a ceasefire was declared between the guerrillas and the government but only the FARC made any attempt to comply. They thus formed a political party in 1985, the Patriotic Union (“La Unión Patriótica). However, this party was eventually decimated by paramilitaries and security forces. The FARC resumed the armed struggle in 1987. After an unsuccessful attempt to coordinate some guerrilla movements and peace agreements with the government, the only active guerillas that remained were the FARC, ELN and to a lesser extent the EPL, which had emerged out of a Maoist branch of the Communist Party of Colombia.

In December 1991, the weakening of the Communist Party and the taking by the army of the FARC secretariat headquarter in La Uribe, a town in the center of the country in the Meta Department forced FARC leaders to change their operating mode. They adopted a military strategy, particularly between 1993 and 1998 with the taking of several villages and military bases during operations involving several hundreds of freedom fighters. The conflict then moved to a phase of warfare in which the government armed forces no longer seemed to be able to control the guerrillas who started to conduct roadblocks, kidnappings, sabotage etc.

Faced with the ineffectiveness of the army, paramilitary militias were constituted with the creation in 1997 of the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) under the leadership of Carlos Castaño. Various vigilante groups were also created, and one of their operating modes was to kill civilians in villages who were believed to be favorable to guerrilla movements, as happened during the Mapiripan massacre.

In 1998, President Andrés Pastrana arrived to power and opted for a new strategy. He created a demilitarized zone in order to promote peace talks and to exchange prisoners. Unfortunately, while it has led to some beneficial developments, it has also been used as a way for the FARC to demand ransoms or to recruit new soldiers. The area was finally declared again under government control in February 2002.

President Alvaro Uribe was elected in 2002. Under his mandate in July 2005 the Justice and Peace Law (Ley de Justicia y Paz), which purported to provide a legal framework for the demobilisation of the guerrilla fighters, was adopted. Under the already existing legislation, that of law 418, all fighters participating in the demobilisation were granted amnesty from criminal investigation and prosecution. Only those who had committed the most serious crimes, including acts of barbarism, terrorism, kidnapping, genocide, and killing civilians, were excluded from the amnesty. The Justice and Peace Law was adopted to deal specifically with those fighters who fell outside the scope of the existing amnesty law. According to the new framework, they could still benefit from judicial benefits if they contribute to the justice and reparation process. Therefore, in exchange for truth telling and a promise not to return to lawlessness, the demobilised fighters could obtain sentence reductions. Soon after its adoption, this law was highly criticised as the narrowness of its scope largely hampered its objectives of peace and justice. Indeed, of the more than 30’000 fighters who demobilised between 2003 and 2006, fewer than 10% fell within the purview of the Justice and Peace Law, the rest qualifying for the amnesty under law 418 which did not require any truth telling.

From 2002 to 2010, during his two terms in office, President Uribe adopted a policy of “democratic security”, and implemented “Plan Colombia”. Uribe decided to increase drastically the military response to the guerrillas with the objective of restoring the presence of the state throughout Colombian territory. The army’s budget was raised and this new operational capacity combined with a strong offensive against the FARC by the AUC before their demobilization in 2006, lead to a significant reduction in the number of FARC forces. Here again, while “the democratic security” strategy adopted by Uribe had some success, it also had limitations. The guerrilla movements intensified; they were fewer but were more mobile than ever before. They continued to inflict severe losses to Colombian government’s forces. In addition, cocaine production still provided large funding to guerrilla movements.

In 2010, the mandate of Juan Manuel Santos began with an upsurge in attacks by the FARC. The government replied with violent counter offensives including that of 23 September 20110, Operation Sodom, which dealt a major blow to the FARC. The FARC military chief Jorge Briceño Suarez was killed in the operation, as well as a significant number of members. After many arrests, the government considered in early 2011 that the FARC were decreasing in size and operations and set the priority to the fight against the heirs of paramilitaries and criminal gangs.

On 27 August 2012, President Santos confirmed that he would meet with the FARC in order to begin peace talks and try to end the conflict. Although controversial, dialogues were conducted during ceasefires, also thanks to the mediation of Hugo Chavez requested by Santos. The peace talks have so far helped to reach an agreement on land reform as well as on political participation and representation of the opposition in the Colombian parliament. The next priority in these dialogues concerns drug trafficking as well as the possible allocation of funds previously associated with the defense budget for the victims in a post conflict Colombia.

Although officially still ongoing, major advances have been made in the Colombian conflict during recent years. So far, the conflict has generated a large number of victims: approximately 180,000 civilians killed, 40,000 combatants killed, 25,000 missing persons and more than 4.7 million displaced. This context of generalized violence has mainly affected the civilian population. Massacres, killings, enforced disappearances, kidnappings have been the everyday life of tens for thousands of people during the conflict.